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Friday, 20th March 2020

Dáil should sit weekly for duration of Covid-19 crisis - Munster

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Deputy Imelda Munster.

Sinn Féin Deputy Imelda Munster has suggested that the Dáil should sit on a weekly basis for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis to ensure that all additional measures may be passed by the Dáil in a timely manner. 

Deputy Munster welcomed the introduction of emergency legislation to tackle some of the immediate challenges of the ongoing pandemic, but stressed that this is just a first step, and the government must be prepared to do more. 

Deputy Munster said: “Sinn Féin was happy to support the emergency legislation introduced this week which will make it easier for people to access welfare payments due to people suffering from Coronavirus or having to be isolated, as well as those who have temporarily lost their jobs due to the shutdown.

“I was also happy to hear about the eviction freeze and measures to protect mortgage holders, however these measures do not go nearly far enough to deal with the enormity of what's happening. 

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“Now we need a fiscal rescue package to protect businesses and further protection for employees. Other European countries have done this and we need to follow suit as the situation is only going to worsen as the weeks go on. 

“We need to ensure that nobody will be in a position where they have to default on their mortgage or fall behind on rent. We have to make sure that no one will have their phone, broadband or energy utilities turned off. We need to protect businesses and the people employed by those businesses. 

“We need to immediately introduce a Covid-19 emergency rent supplement payment. 

“We need to bring in clear guidelines relating to childcare. Sinn Féin has raised the matter of crèches still charging full fees to parents whose children are now at home with government Ministers. Meanwhile, many staff members in crèches are not being paid. This is too large a burden for families to bear and must immediately be addressed. 

“This must be accompanied by expansions to entitlement to, duration and payment of Parents Benefit in order to expand income protection to workers forced to take unpaid leave due to the closure of crèches and schools. 

“People are doing their best. Citizens are doing all they can to abide by the new way of life while this crisis goes on. Health workers, shop workers, community workers and families are all doing their bit. The burden has to be shared by everyone, including banks and landlords.

“During the recession banks were bailed out by the people. Now they are going to have to share some of the burden.  

“We need assurances, with a legislative basis, regarding the freeze on mortgages and loans. Questions still remain unanswered regarding the implications of this measure for interest payments and credit ratings for customers. We need to ensure that this doesn't come back to bite people down the line. Banks must take a hit, the same as everyone else. 

“We also need certainty around the 100,000 mortgages that are not held by the main banks. One in seven family homes are owned by vulture funds. We can't rely on vulture funds and banks to do the right thing. We need a legislative backing.

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